Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Story lunch: Scars

So as part of this new gig, I'm going to send out a story around lunchtime a few times a week... just a little something that might entertain you or make you think. I'll be showcasing storytellers from all over the Web. If you run across something good, let me know.

Today's story is part of a series The Human Project did about people with scars, and how they got them.

the human project - matty from the human project on Vimeo.



I've got a few scars myself... I suspect you do, too. Where did yours come from? And what do you think about when you look at them?

53 comments:

Rod said...

I've got a crooked index finger, resulting from a badly-healed break. When I look at it, I remember the back-yard wedding reception at which it happened; my long-divorced friends who were a happy young couple back then; and the wonderful relationship I had with their parents. So much history in several families, all brought back to memory by one little crooked finger!

Jessica said...

I still have a few chickenpox scars. Don't really remember having the chickenpox, but just the atmosphere in the house (Mom was dealing with five infected children within eight weeks).

Have a small stab wound on my left hand from my sister and I attempting our own knife-throwing act. That was the last time Dad took us to the circus.

There are others...what an interesting topic, Tommy.

Esther said...

Growing up on a cattle ranch, I've got a pretty rad collection: a thin slice diagonally across my back where a horse threw me into a barbed wire fence, a rattlesnake bite on my right thigh, a long thin slice right up the middle of my shin, from barbed wire again and a splotchy white patch on my lower back where a horse stepped on me and abraded the skin.
All of them have great stories behind them and I see them as battle scars. They remind me of growing up on the ranch and symbolize survival to me.
When I look at the rattlesnake bite I see the two hours I spent riding horseback to get to the headquarters, in excruciating pain, curses flying, so that my dad could drive me to the hospital.
When I look at the barbed wire scars I think of all the hours Dad and I spent building fences together.
When I see the big scar on my back, I think about the three days I spent in the hospital and the weeks of physical therapy to get my back right again.
Those experiences, and the scars, have made me stronger.

Anonymous said...

I have one on my face from getting whacked by golf club and one on my thumb from where I almost cut it off in woodshop in middle school.

Peggy said...

I have one on the inside of my right thigh where my mother was cutting the hem of my blue jean shorts while I had them on. I was 12 or 13 and it hurt!!!

tommy tomlinson said...

These are great, y'all... and Peggy, I hate to say it, but yours is pretty funny.

peggy said...

Oh - forgot to mention it was with pinking shears so the scar looks like an arrow!

Anonymous said...

I have a long scar on my abdomen that was originally caused by removal of a cyst the size of a grapefruit. The scar was re-opened twice, once because fertility treatments ended with another cyst instead of pregnancy and finally to remove my uterus, ending any possibility of childbearing. So my scars remind me of motherhood that was not to be. I also have a chunk out of my lower leg were a melanoma was removed and a scar on my upper leg that provided the skin to heal the area, scars that remind me that I was given the gift of continued life to share with others.

hipQuest said...

When I was 6 I was at my grandparents farm when the chickens got out of the coop. I wanted to help my Granddaddy so I got the pitch fork to shoo the chickens back to the coop (I had seen Granddaddy do it). Instead of bringing it down on the tip of the tail feathers I jammed it into my foot. That was a very interesting ride the hospital- in the bed of a pick-up with my Nana and Momma holding me and the pitch fork steady and Granddaddy driving as carefully as he could. I learned many years later that the doctor wanted to amputate my foot but my family refused. After many months of antibiotics and very frequent cleaning I healed up perfectly! The now faint scar reminds me of how very much I've been loved.

Anonymous said...

I never had acne as a teen, but at the end of grad school, I developed a ferocious case on my face, arms, back, even my legs. For 20 years, it baffled dermotologists who prescribed everything. Then, the one doctor found the hormonal imbalance and got the cocktail right. My acne was gone in a week... the scars remain. I know people look at them and wonder what disease I've survived. I know it looks that way to me. But it's just scars. I won the war.

tommy tomlinson said...

Here's something I got via email from Ann Fox at Davidson College. WARNING: The paintings found at the link include images you might find disturbing.

From Ann:

I don't have any scars to post about myself, but I thought you might like to know about the paintings of Doug Auld.

He paints scarred burn survivors as part of the State of Grace Project (both adolescent burn survivors and Iraq war veterans); he began painting these subjects because of a missed opportunity for connection. He saw a young girl with a burned face, and turned away, startled; he always regretted that missed opportunity for connection.

After 9/11, he decided he wanted to try and make up for that missed chance. His paintings reflect survivors not as tragic, but as strong & resilient. He shows the beauty of their new embodiment--not in a romanticized, but in a very real way. Through art, we're invited to engage difference in a way we might not on the street (since we're normally taught to either fear or not look at disability).
For what it's worth, thought it might be of interest.

(From Tommy: Again, these images might be disturbing.)

http://www.dougauld.com/

GibsonGirl45 said...

I have too many to talk about here...but two scars, one on each leg just above the knees, I got from trying to catch a glass bowl that had slipped out of my shaking hands. I pinned the bowl between myself and a cabinet door. It broke and sliced my legs pretty good. My hands were shaking because it was 9/11/2001 and that's what I think about each time I look at those two scars.

Anonymous said...

This is a rather long story, so bear with me. My wife brought home a kitten, and our dog (who eventually became close friends with the kitten, now fat cat)wouldn't stop barking.

So my wife and son took the cat in into another room and shut the door. The dog tried to tunnel under the door, ripping a hole in the wall to wall carpeting in the hall way.

We decided to replace the carpet with oak flooring. I'm pretty handy and did it myself. My wife liked it so much she asked me to extend the oak into the room where she had taken the cat.

On the day after Christmas I had just a few more pieces to install, but I had a ticke to the first Continental Tire Bowl. However my friend, who is a WVU grad, missed out in the tickets, and I gave him my ticket, and said i would finish the floor.

While making the very last cut, the piece I was cutting slipped from the clamp (to a table)and i felt a sharp pain on the end of my thumb.

My first thought, while holding my thumb in my arm pit was, how am I going to play golf tomorrow? Then I took the thumb from under my arm to see how bad it was, and saw (no pun intended),for the first time in my life, the inside of one of my bones.

There was no way to reattach all the thumb pieces, so the doc filed down the bone a bit and stitched it up. He wrapped it in a huge foam bandage.

The next day I was bored from sitting around the house, and decided to go to the golf and just hit some putts. Now before the accident I was what you'd call a "handsy putter". But with the huge bandage I had to rock my shoulders to putt...and I became a much better putter.

So now every time I play golf, and look down at my stump, I think of how that cat helped make me a better putter...not that the cat cares.

Anonymous said...

I have a long ugly scar down the middle of my chest from the melanoma I just had removed. I’m a young woman and can’t help but think about bathing suits and wedding gowns, but my boyfriend continues to remind me that it shows that I’m healthier now than I was a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

http://www.dougauld.com/


WOW----my son had a classmate burned in a car accident---they go through so much and have to live with so much.

Anonymous said...

We will definitely have scars from this economy years down the road! hopefully it will make people be grateful that they had any type of roof over their heads/food to eat even if it meant sandwiches!

Gary Morland said...

When I was a kid my brother called me "lightbulb head" because my ears stuck out. Scarred me for life. Until one day I saw a photo taken from behind and thought, "uhh, my head really IS shaped like a lightbulb." So we're friends again.

Brenda said...

I have many surgical scars of which the two most interesting are what I call my "matching zippers". I've had two partial nephrectomies to remove damaged and infected portions of malformed kidneys in an attempt to prolong the life of the remaining kidney tissue. The bilateral scars appear to be zippers that begin in front, wrap around my sides and end in the back, each about 8 or 9 inches long. Although I've since lost the remaining portion of the right kidney, I still have half of the left kidney.

The scars make me smile now - When I was 17, I had a 21 inch waist. If I still had that small waist, the scars would be only a couple of inches apart! Since my waist has expanded so much over the last 50 years, they are in no danger of meeting in front or back. Weight makes the distance grow longer! :)

Anonymous said...

When I was seven, I lived across the street from an empty lot with an abandoned house foundation. Left inside were rocks, scrap wood and bricks. That lot served as an inviting playground for lots of us neighborhood kids. One afternoon, several of us kids decided to gather those materials to build our own child-sized house. Just as we got the house waist high, I turned quickly and pushed my thigh against the pointed end of a 16 penny, rusty, nail. It sank long and deep into my body. Fifty years later, the pain, the attention, the doctor's visit and the tetanus shot are faint memories. The small scar reminds me of a fun-filled childhood.

Tdoc said...

A sampling...
Date: 1981 (?). Scar location: Inside of right calf. Cause: Excessive eagerness to climb barbed-wire fence to trespass and pet horses not belonging to principal. Provenance: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: 1983 (??). Scar location: Left thigh. Cause: Eating fail caused by uneven heating of frozen lasagna caused by early microwave technology, resulting in rubbery pasta catapulted onto flesh by fork. Provenance: Charlotte, N.C.
Date: 1989. Scar location: Right heel. Cause: Tequila-induced search for boyfriend's lost Teva while barefoot in mussel shell-ridden canal. Provenance: Emerald Isle, N.C.
Date: 1995 (?). Scar location: Left forearm. Cause: Snagged on branch while mountain biking at velocity witnesses claimed was near light speed (really!). Provenance: Tsali, Graham County, N.C.
Date: 2009. Scar location: Right forearm. Cause: Excessive scratching of poison ivy, acquired in November (!!) while planting trees. Provenance: Saline, Michigan.

todd day said...

Great story idea, Tommy!
I have lots of little scars all over me from a lifetime of sports and enjoying the great outdoors (fishing, especially seems to contribute heavily to this!).

The one that always brings back memories is the crooked little finger on my left hand. I got a little too cocky on a bike trail one hot summer day and did an "endo" down a hill (as in "end over end") and landed in a clump of bushes. Jumped up thinking I was fine til I noticed my pinky finger was not where it should be!! I reset the dislocation on the spot (ouch!) and rode on thinking I was one tough hombre.

It wasn't til I woke up the next morning and my finger was black and blue and the size of a polish sausage that I realized I had broken it. I never had my doctor reset it the right way so all these years later it's still "crooked as a dog's hind leg," as my Daddy would have said.

Kim Grayson said...

The scar at the base of my back will never compare to what I have learned following emergency back surgery that resulted in a spinal cord injury. I have been spending the final days of summer 2010 learning to walk and being extremely grateful for the mobility that I have. I am 38 years old and have two small children. It is amazing what you take for granted when life takes a detour like this. I am 'wow'ing the Doctors and I am told my prognosis is remarkable and excellent. Thank goodness that scars HEAL!

Gary O'Brien said...

Tommy, I've had five joint surgeries, in addition to leading with my face and head. My favorite is the second scar on my right knee, the one where I got the joint replaced. Years of chronic pain finally stopped after that.

Good question!

Just Bill said...

Interesting topic/prompt, Tommy. I'll stick with two (maybe three) scars. First, there are still a couple of scars visible on my face from the day when I was, oh, younger than 4 - hey, it was a loong time ago - when my grandfather's dog and I met, turning the corner of the house from opposite directions. He was barking at the lawnmower, so his mouth was open, and well... Actually, I was lucky. A little higher, I would have lost my eye and a little lower, he would have caught my throat. They tell me the dog felt bad about it.
Part 2, my right index finger. When I was in high school I worked at Carowinds, and one summer my job was fixing Skee-Ball machines. One day, I pulled on the sheet metal ball trough cover to fix it, and the cover hung at both ends and snapped back, clipping my finger. The tip of my finger didn't quite come off, but boy did it bleed! I learned to hold a guitar pick with my thumb and middle finger for a few weeks. Years (and years) later, same finger, a home improvement/decorating accident involving a curtain rod. Quiet, emphatic profanity, cold running water, and off to ER for six stitches. I tell you, the ER staff are really nice folks, but I'd rather nor see then again.

Anonymous said...

On the top of my right hand is a faint crooked scar from where my skin got caught in the metal watch band of a boy who, when we were in junior high, was trying to squeeze my butt. I ran away and my butt escaped his grasp but my hand didn't. Now, more than 25 years later, I still have a permanent reminder of an unwanted sexual advance. Not fun.

Ed said...

Got a scar on inside of left arm that was caused by a .22 rifle bullet that richocheted of the gas tank of my Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. I was on the way to work up Hiway 160 near 49 back in the day of 1973. Thought I was stung by a bee!! Boss man took me to ER. Cop showed up, started pulling on my arm looking for exit wound. None. Doc dug out the bullet, wrapped me up and boss took me back to work!! Crap

SeaShark said...

I have a BB pellet scar on my forehead courtesy of my merry prankster younger brother. I was parked on our back porch swing bench reading comic books when Rambo---he was 7 years old and I was 9---materialized from behind the garden shed and shot me with my own DAISY BB rifle!

Our mother witnessed the stealth assault from the kitchen window, gave little brother a stern lecture about gun safety, and awarded me his weekly allowance for the next three months.

Believe me when I tell you that an extra 50 cents a week was big money for a 9-year old in 1958!

Anonymous said...

I have a long scar, full of bumps and tissue where my breast used to be. Thanks to botched surgery and botched radiation there is no way to reconstruct that part of my body. So each night when I undress I look at the monster I have become and realize that my romantic life is at an end. I think of incompetent doctors, and insensitive morons who talk about breast cancer using phrases like "save the ta-tas." And I think of the friends who assure me that I can find fulfillment in my job and maybe do some volunteer work---which apparently is supposed to make up for being an untouchable for the rest of my life.

That is MY comical, heartwarming scar story.

Richard London said...

Each scar on our body does tell a story, but some of our deepest scars we keep inside. While some scars may reflect a cute story, some truly reflect life changing events. I have had 15 surgeries including one for prostate cancer. I also am living with Parkinson's disease, but I cherish every day and thank God for my life. Dear Anonymous blogger above, I know where you are coming from. My step mother had two breast cancer surgeries and radiation that left her physically scarred as well. Reconstruction is not possible for her either. Her first surgery was over 12 years ago and she still is in some physical pain. But, she is glad to be alive and able to be with her children and grandchildren.

I hope that as time passes your psychic pain will ease. I don't know you, but pray that you allow yourself to enjoy the comfort of the people around you.

Anonymous said...

I have a small raised crescent-shaped scar on the middle joint of my left index finger, acquired when I was a pre-teen. My prized Girl Scout pocket knife slipped while I was whittling. The knife may have been too dull for the stick, but it had no problem deeply slicing my flesh. The scar reminds me of happy times spent outdoors, as well as the origin of my desire for properly sharpened knives and tools.

Gary said...

Better than any scar of mine was one of my Dad's.

On his way to his wedding, in all his nervousness, he slammed his middle finger in the car door arriving at the church. Lost the the entire top joint. Somehow they quenched the bleeding enough that the wedding continued, albeit slightly delayed.

But for the rest of his life, whenever my dad wanted to make someone laugh, he gave them "the finger". It looked so weird no one ever failed to grin at the sight.

Anonymous said...

I have a 2 1/2 inch long scar on my right arm courtesy of my little sister and her fingernails. We used to do battle like no one's business back in the day. Now that we've grown up, she is a good friend, and I wouldn't trade her for anyone!

tommy tomlinson said...

I'm amazed and humbled... thanks to everyone for these fantastic stories.

We're going to publish some of these in the paper, and I was wondering if any of you would be willing to email me photos of your scars, or (if you're in the CLT area) possibly have a photographer come and take a picture. I'm not exactly sure what we're doing yet -- just trying to figure out the possibilities.

Email me at ttomlinson@charlotteobserver.com if you're interested.

And everyone else, keep the stories coming.

Thanks, t.

Rose said...

Anon 1:40 am:

I am so sorry for the pain that you have suffered. It just makes me want to cry. But please know that you are not untouchable. I'm sure the scars are painful, but there is hope.

My father was horrifically burned at the age of 21. Third degree burns covered 90 percent of his body (everything but his feet because his rubber boots protected him). He was burned when the oil well he was working on exploded.

He lost his nose, his ears and the heat fused the joints in his arms and hands, leaving them permanently clawed.

At the age of 35 he and my mother, age 40, fell in love. She was then, and still is, a knockout. Everyone wondered what she was doing with my dad. She saw the kind and incredibly funny person he was and saw past the burn scars.

They divorced years later (an amicable split) and remained friends. He eventually remarried and he and my step-mom (another beautiful lady) stayed together until he died two years ago.

I tell you this because if a man whose face sent small children into fits of tears can find love twice, I am sure there is someone out there who can see the beauty and strength, inside and out, in you.

Barbara said...

I have a scar on my left hand from petting a bull through a barbed wire fence. Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

My 6-year-old son has a half-inch scar on his right cheek, the result of the crash c-section (almost without anesthesia!) that saved his life. When the doc apologized for it (and the crooked, long c-section scar), I told him to think nothing of the wounds: "That was the cut that saved his life."

Jerry Mudge said...

Tommy,
I had an operation on my right eblow about twenty five years ago, they cut some of the bone off since I had tenelitis in it. When my two sons died in a car crash in 1990 and I began healing that scar which still shows and in 1993, after I began healing with God's help, I began to use it as part of my testimony that we can heal from the horrible pain of loss after we do our grief work, like my elbow, it had to have time to heal, but that I will never forget my sons and I have a scar but it is healed in my heart. Some people feel they can never heal from the death of a child, I am a walking testimony that you can heal but in order to heal, you have to go through the grief process and allow God to work to bring healing. Now as you know maybe already, we have Footprints ministry and Our Children's Memorial Walkway which Jewel helped us start. that is a healing garden.

Anonymous said...

I have a scar that a few people see. But I'm happy to share. After my vasectomy I had a infection. It was my fault, just wasn't washing enough. I had to have one of my testicles removed. They make implants but insurance looks at these like breast implants. It has become like a party novelty. I used to be so upset about it. But with the help of friends and counseling I live a full life.

Anonymous said...

I used to deal in illegal substances and got stabbed once in my left thigh when a deal went bad. Luckily I got out of the situation ok and it healed up pretty good. The other guys wounds never healed.

Anonymous said...

150 stitches on the left-hand side of the face after I was attacked at a bar in New York five years ago. I was within centimeters of losing my eye and my smile - the woman was charged with an assault and the scars look better five years later...

Scars make you stronger - I am proof.

Brian M. said...

I have a scar in my right eyebrow. I crashed into a fence rail in 9th grade running to the start line at a track meet. Six stitches and didn't get to run in the event.... When I think of it now, it always makes me laugh because it is a funny story. I still remember my coach's first comment as I lay on the ground - "son, didn't you see that rail...?"

Christine said...

I have a scar on my left arm from a melanoma ressection. My dermatologist still expresses regret that the scar looks as bad as it does. But I don't want it fixed. It's my reminder to use sunscreen and be thankful to be alive and healthy.

The other scar I have is on my forehead. In first grade, at an end-of-year school picnic, all the kids were playing tag, girls chase the boys. There were kids swarming all around the picnic pavilion chasing each other and I was in hot pursuit of a little boy from my class. I tripped and fell into a pavilion windowsill, cracked my forehead open and required an ER visit and stitches. I learned that day that chasing boys will only get you hurt. It's far better to let them chase you!

Anonymous said...

@ 1:17 pm. Is this story true? Are you saying you killed someone?

Tom said...

Ankle: bullet hole thru it (entry scabbed over in 10 days, exit took 5 months, several ops, and two skin grafts).
Knee: 2" scar from power saw kick back.
Heart: found in a crib after three days deserted by mother. Never knew her. Raised by a real woman - my aunt.

Hally said...

When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Wilms Tumor on Christmas eve night. On Dec 26th, I had my first surgery, where they attempted to remove the watermelon sized tumor, but they were unsuccessful. After months of chemo and radiation, they were finally able to remove it and my right kidney. So here I am, at 21 years old, with a perfectly straight line across the whole length of my abdomen. When I worked at a summer camp as a teenager, I used to tell my campers that I was in a magician act gone wrong and that I got cut in half haha.
My feelings about my scar vary...Sure, the stares get old and I'm always self conscious in a bathing suit. I know I would feel much more attractive without it; However, at the same time, I love it. It's certainly a conversation piece and whenever I tell people my story, their jaw never ceases to drop. As much as it is hard being a young female with a scar across her stomach, its story is a huge part of my life and makes me who I am today.

MaryK said...

I still have a scar on the palm of my right hand, just to the left of the base of my thumb, from when I was about 8 or 9. My dad had been pruning back the crape myrtles and there were some angled stubs still poking up from the ground. We were outside playing and I tripped, fell and stabbed my hand on one.

My aunt had to take me to the ER as my mother didn't drive at the time. I remember I got out of my spelling test that week!

Amongst other assorted scars (including a navel to "down there" zipper/railroad track one from my hyst), I had some arthroscopic knee surgery in 2008. Now I have what I call a "Klingon warbird" on my right kneecap!

Anonymous said...

There are many of us who have invisible scars. Scars caused by emotional, verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse while we were children or even as adults. These scars will never fade. I experienced emotional, verbal and sexual abuse as a child and, yes, it does effect my interaction with others. It is now 55 years later and I believe I am a stronger person, however, there are still times, such as writing this note, that makes me feel the pain of those scars. GHS

Daniel Garrett said...

I have several. One a half inch scar on my left thumb where I cut it when I was a kid. I was cutting tall grass on the bank in front of my grandmothers house with a butcher knife and cut it. In the old days the tricycles had their seats mounted on about a half inch metal rod attached to the frame. You adjusted the seat height on it. We used to take the rear tires off the tricycles and stand on them and ride them across my back yard. In my back yard, it sloped, and ride them and spin out and throw dirt. The shaft went into my leg at the knee on the inside of my left leg. And the biggie a six inch scar in the middle of my chest plus two drain scars and two long scars on the inside of both legs from bypass surgery.

Jeff said...

During my junior year of high school I picked up two scars months apart. The first happened during a pick-up basketball game. I'm barely 6-feet tall but could jump and did so against a 6'4" guy with slow feet to grab a rebound. The side of my face met his forehead and left a gash over my eye, but I got the ball.

Some weeks later I'm running hurdles in the hallway (this is Cleveland in February) and Coach puts a piece of chalk on top of the hurdle to encourage lean. I leaned low, knocked off the chalk and part of the hurdle with my trailing leg which left a small scar on my knee.

I consider them scars of determination.

tommy tomlinson said...

A couple more via email:

I read your article on readers comments about scars and was deeply concerned about the woman who wrote about her breast cancer scars. Just a bit of background, I am 45 and have metastatic breast cancer. I was diagnosed four years ago at Stage II, lumpectomy, chemo, radiation...the works. A year later diagnosed with mets to my bone and ovaries. More surgery...but so far so good since then.

I don't define myself by my cancer, or my scars. I see them as hard won in the battle for my life, my victory scars.

This disease can rule a person's world but we are so much more than our diagnosis, or our scars. I wish she could see that it is not her scars, outer scarred breast, that is stopped her from a relationship or happiness...but her perception of those scars that she is less worthy of love or life.

I know better, I wish she did.
-- Rosalyn

I grew up in small town in north central Ohio with only one outdoor track for both the high school and junior high track teams to share. After a prolonged rainy spell rendered the cinder track and infield unusable, our coaches decided to hold practice indoors. The basketball and volleyball teams occupied the gym, so we ran sprints in groups of 2-3 up and down the main corridor of the school. The remaining kids were lined up against both walls waiting their turn to run. Several glass display cases filled with various schol trophies were recessed into the walls and I was leaning against one of these. I guess because of all the vibrations caused by the pounding of the kids' feet (this was an old building after all) along with the weight of the kids pressed against the glass the trophy case shattered. I fell backwards into a shower of tiny glass shards and crashed into the trophies. Somehow, the only cut I received was a long thin one on the back of my right arm directly above my elbow. It wasn't much more than a bad scratch. I do remember the office staff and the principal vacuuming glass out of my clothes and hair. That incident combined with several other embarrassing episodes throughout the season earned me the "Clutz Award" at the end of year banquet...something I always remember and laugh about when I look at my scar.
-- Tammy

Cindy said...

I had to have a cyst removed on my face about 10 years ago which resulted in a scar. The scar itself does not bother me at all, it is just a part of who I am, but it did make me think about scars in general and how all scars are not visisble to others. This is a poem I wrote at the time.

They go about
their self-assured
and superficial lives
no visible scars
to distract from
the picture
of perfection
that money can buy
while I
with a new scar
there on my face
for everyone to see
go about my life
hiding the broken parts
and the scars inside
that are such a part of me

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